Synechococcus Jen Wells
Synechococcus is a group of unicellular marine cyanobacteria. They are coccus shaped as the name implies and are less then 3 micrometers in diameter. They are classified as photolithotrophic, which retrieves their energy from the sun and CO2. These cyanobacteria divide by binary fission and are grouped as gram-negative cocci. They play an important ecological role as primary producers on a global scale. They are abundant in the world’s oceans and one of the most numerous genomes on earth. They are obligate marine and require elevated levels of Na+, Cl-, Mg2+, and Ca2+. They have acquired the ability to harvest major nutrients and trace metals at submicromolar concentrations, and their light harvesting apparatus collects spectral quality of light in the ocean, utilizing only chlorophyll a. They have a unique technique of mobility that can propel them up to 25um/sec, yet they have no known demonstratable external organelles. They use this motility as a response to extremely small gradients of nitrogenous compounds.
My main interest in this group of microbes is the ability they have shown in cleaning up atmosphereic greenhouse gases. Japanese microbiologists Tadashi Matsunaga and Shigetoh Miyachi are investigating Synechococcus, and its promising characteristic of "mopping’ up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This could result in the arrest of the current increase in greenhouse gas accumulation or possibly even reversing the effects of gasses given of by power plants and other industrial stations. Matsunaga and Miyachi have been trying to cultivate Synechococcus in huge ‘bioreactors’ to stimulate the same high level of carbon dioxide atmosphere, and see how the bacteria react. Unfortunately, the only growth of the bacteria that was found was near the light source. This posed a problem. They next tried 2-liter bioreactors that not only contained marine water, but also were lined with 600 very fine fiber optic tubes. These tubes emitted light along their entire length, causing illumination throughout the depths of the vessel. As a result, there was adequate growth of the Synechococcus in the vessel, removing all the carbon dioxide out of the air bubbled through the water at 300 milliliters per minute. VERY promising results.
Their next obstacle to overcome was what to do with accumulation of growing cells that were produced during this process. Matsunaga has already genetically engineered a strain of Synechococcus that manufactures amino acids as nutritional supplements, glutamic acid being one of these. They hope to expand on this principle and come up with a strain of this bacterium that not only makes amino acids, but also antibiotics. If microbiologists were able to accomplish this, this would be an absolutely magnificent microbe. Imagine, a bacterium that not only helps in the remedy of a global crisis, but also produces products of gastronomic and pharmaceutical value.
Dixon, Benard. The Power Unseen-How Microbes Rule the World. W.H. Freeman and Co. Limited. 1994 pgs216-219
*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.
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